Key UFC 248 moments: Zhang, Joanna inspire crowd; ref chides Adesanya, Romero


LAS VEGAS — The crowd knew exactly what it was witnessing: one of the greatest fights in UFC history.

Before the start of the fifth round between Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk on Saturday night, the fans at T-Mobile Arena gave the two women a standing ovation.

Even fighters in the crowd who have seen and participated in epic bouts stood to express their admiration.

Zhang, who was defending her strawweight title for the first time, and Jedrzejczyk embraced each other, also understanding the weight of the moment, before resuming their violent struggle.

After another five minutes, the fans were back on their feet again. It was clear that they had watched something they won’t soon forget.

Weili pulled out the razor-thin split decision as spectators on social media erupted with praise for the bloody effort.

Earlier in the evening, the UFC announced the first fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson will be inducted into the promotion’s Hall of Fame. And there’s little doubt that fight will have company with the co-main event from Saturday.

Ref to Adesanya, Romero: You’re getting paid to fight

After Weili and Jedrzejczyk’s great fight, an almost unreasonable bar was set for the main event. Israel Adesanya and Yoel Romero could not reach that bar or remotely come close.

The action was so sparse, referee Dan Miragliotta tried to coax the fighters into more action. Miragliotta reminded them that they were getting paid for a championship fight and urged them to give the judges something to score.

As opposed to the co-main event, fans booed during the main event all the way through the announcement that Adesanya won by unanimous decision.

Izzy’s walkout

It was a far less flashy effort than his choreographed dance during his walkout to the ring before facing Robert Whittaker at UFC 243, but Israel Adesanya once again brought something a little bit extra to his entrance at UFC 248.

Flanked by two women throwing flower petals at his feet, in a moment reminiscent of the movie “Coming to America,” Adesanya crossed his arms and then stoically began his walk into the arena. He took a slow, measured pace toward the Octagon that was a prelude to his approach once he was inside the cage.

Adesanya had promised a “visually pleasing” entrance, and he delivered.

O’Malley and Rogan reunite in Octagon

Two years ago, Sean O’Malley couldn’t stand up for his postfight Octagon interview because of a fractured foot. He was laying on his back during his interview and the clip of him saying “I love this game. I love the talk, I love the media. I love everything about this sport. And I f—ing love you, Joe Rogan” was seen more than 1.2 million times on YouTube.

To some extent, a star was born.

O’Malley was barely touched Saturday by Jose Quinonez as he posted a first-round TKO, so this time, he stood tall next to Rogan for the interview.

He kept his emotions in check while talking about the “Suga Show 2.0,” and just when it seemed the interview was over, O’Malley grabbed the mic.

“I friggin love you Joe Rogan,” and just like he did last time, Rogan responded: “I love you too buddy.”

Cowboy Cerrone gets new feather in his cap

Cowboys of a feather flock together. Alex Oliveira, the UFC’s Brazilian “Cowboy,” gifted Donald Cerrone a feather for his cowboy hat following Oliveira’s split decision win over Max Griffin.

As Oliveira was leaving the cage, he spotted “Cowboy” Cerrone and handed him the feather. The two embraced. The “Cowboys” fought each other on Feb. 21, 2016. Cerrone won and then gifted Oliveira a feather afterward — one he had since he as a child — as a thank you because Oliveira stepped up on short notice.

Now, Cerrone has a feather from Oliveira.

A bonus most definitely earned for Dariush

It looked like Drakkar Klose was about to complete quite the turnaround. He’d spent much of Round 1 standing trapped against the cage with Beneil Dariush draped on his back, a body lock securing Dariush’s dominant position as he fished for a rear-naked choke, again and again.

Klose survived, which was an accomplishment in itself. And then he outdid himself, clipping Dariush with a straight punch early in Round 2, hurting him badly. Klose moved in for the kill, boldly … maybe too boldly.

Because then it was Dariush’s turn for a turnaround. As Klose advanced, Dariush stopped him in his tracks with a left hand that sent him into a wobbly dance. Dariush then pursued him across the cage and finished the job with a big overhand left hand that collapsed Klose to the canvas, his mouthpiece hanging out of his mouth.

Dariush earned a $50,000 bonus for his efforts in Vegas.

Magny also had an impressive return

Sean O’Malley‘s comeback was the most talked about return at UFC 248. And it was significant. But Neil Magny had quite the first fight back, as well.

One of the most consistent performers in the UFC’s stacked welterweight division, Magny dominated the very game Li Jingliang in a unanimous-decision (30-27 on call three cards) win on the main card.

Magny had not fought since Nov. 17, 2018, due to, like O’Malley, issues with USADA. While O’Malley was actually suspended twice by USADA during the last two years, Magny was eventually cleared when it was determined that he did not intentionally consume the banned substance LGD-4033.

Magny’s case was one that pushed USADA to add thresholds for LGD-4033 and substances like it that are commonly found unlisted in contaminated supplements. Magny had a big victory in his USADA case and then another big one in his Octagon return.

After the fight, Magny called out Michael Chiesa, who immediately said he’s game.

Madsen pays homage to long-distance fans

After improving his MMA record to 10-0, Mark O. Madsen made sure to thank his fans who made the trip from Denmark.

“I had to go through hell to be here tonight,” Madsen said. “I suffered from a staph infection, I ruptured my shoulder, but I’m still here. I’m here to fight, I’m here to perform the best I can. I believe with the right people, with the right choices, the right training, I have the potential to become one of the best MMA fighters in the world.

“And even more important, thank you to all the Danish fans who took the 9,000-kilometer journey to be here tonight. I really appreciate it.”

Cormier watches protégé absorb body shots in loss

As Daniel Cormier watched his protégé Deron Winn fight Gerald Meerschaert, he saw body shots make a big impact.

And it hit home with Cormier, who was commentating Octagon-side.

“I’ve struggled with that at times myself,” Cormier said. “It really does wear on you. You saw it really damage Deron Winn.”

Body shots cost Cormier in his challenge for Stipe Miocic‘s heavyweight belt on Aug. 17, 2019, and it hurt Winn in the second round.

Winn was able to survive those body shots in the second, but Meerschaert eventually caught him in the third and clinched in a rear-naked choke to end the fight.

Celebs in attendance

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